Born in Philadelphia, graduated from Temple University, Judi finally made her way to New York City in 1976 and began performing at "Loft" concerts as a modern dancer, working with choreography and improvisation. In 1980, she met and started a long-term collaboration with the deeply imaginative Joe Lovano. Together Judi & Joe created the group "WinDance" and put on a series of Music/Dance concerts at the Washington Square Church. During the early 1980s Judi also taught several Music & Movement Workshops at the New School for Social Research, which trained and encouraged instrumentalists to have body awareness as part of their conception for playing their instruments. This theme of combining music and movement has been a consistent thread throughout Judi's creative life.
Silvano sang many sessions and loft concerts in this period with Scott Lee, Kenny Werner, Tom Rainey, Joe Lovano, Billy Drewes, and Ratso Harris among others. And for many years, every Monday night you could find Judi at the famed Village Vanguard listening to the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra play the great charts of Thad Jones and this is when she rekindled her love of Big Band music, having grown up in a jazz-loving household. She could sing along with all the Lead Trumpet parts, which directly influenced her unique vocal approach to singing like a horn.
Her first Jazz recording in 1981 was Michael Bocian's FOR THIS GIFT (GunMar Records) in a totally improvised trio piece with Bocian on guitar and Kenny Werner on piano. In 1987, Silvano co-founded JSL Records with Joe Lovano as a way to document some of their work and 1989 was Silvano's first major jazz tour of Europe in Lovano's "Wind Ensemble" with Bill Frisell, Tim Hagans and Paul Motian. A live recording, WORLDS, was released in France and won the Grand Prix Award there, before it was released in the U.S. in 1995 on Evidence Records.
Silvano's first Vocal Group "Voices of Juniper" was formed in 1990 and she began writing vocal arrangements of tunes by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Haden, Bill Evans, Tom Harrell as well as her own Original songs. She entered the Brooklyn Lager Band Search and the judges, led by trumpeter Lester Bowie, applauding the spirit and originality of Silvano's compositions and arrangements (for Vocal Quartet with rhythm section plus trumpet and tenor sax) awarded her First Prize (to open for Bowie's Brass Fantasy at Brooklyn's Prospect Park with a live broadcast on WBGO radio). Some of this material was recorded on her first CD as a Leader DANCING VOICES (JSL Records) released in 1992.
Silvano went into the studio in 1993 as part of Joe Lovano's ground-breaking session UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE (Blue Note Records) along with Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette among others. The group toured Europe playing Lovano's hard-hitting repertoire to amazed audiences from Scandinavia to Italy. Around the same time Silvano also recorded the works of pianist and composer Kenny Werner on his PAINTINGS (Pioneer) along with Billy Drewes and Erik Friedlander, which was unfortunately only released in Japan.
During 1995 Silvano recorded again on Joe Lovano's RUSH HOUR (Blue Note Records) another cutting-edge project with Gunther Schuller's compositions and orchestrations. Silvano was also featured on a few duo arrangements with Mr. Lovano, where he overdubbed drums and several horns. Joe distilled a Quintet that he called "Symbiosis" featuring the unique combination of Voice and Cello and they toured the U.S. and Europe and rocked the IAJE convention in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 1997, Judi's Major Label debut as a Leader was VOCALISE (Blue Note Records) and that same year, she began teaching Voice at Rutgers University's Newark Campus. Once again she had the amazing experience of feeling a great rhythm section, this time George Mraz and Al Foster, when Arranger/Conductor, Manny Albam wrote her voice into the ensemble on Joe Lovano's CELEBRATING SINATRA (Blue Note Records).
April 1998 was the premier of a composition written for her by composer Lori Dobbins called "Sketches For Silvano", a contemporary classical piece with a be-boppish theme, for Voice, Vibes and Percussion. The first movement was released on INSPIRATIONS (Capstone Records) as part of the Society of Composers' series.
That summer, Silvano first joined the faculty of the Banff International Centre for the Arts' Summer Jazz Workshop under the Directorship of her colleague Kenny Werner, and she returned to teach talented young musicians from around the world and perform there with other Faculty (such as Dave Holland, Kenny Werner, Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas) for 4 summers in the spectacular Canadian Rockies. Silvano also began teaching a Yoga & Stretch class in the early morning hours, to support everyone's awareness of how important the physical body is to making music.
The October 2000 release of Silvano's SONGS I WROTE OR WISH I DID (JSL Records) featured the great Victor Lewis on drums, Larry Goldings on organ, Vic Juris on guitar, Essiet Okun Essiet on bass, and special guest Joe Lovano on two tunes. This is a swinging set with songs by Bob Dorough, Billy Strayhorn, Thad Jones/Abbey Lincoln, Myrow & DeLange, Emil Boyd/Hale Smith, Myriam Alter, Jane Hall and some of Silvano's original songs and lyrics. Other highlights of the year were a sold out CD Release Party at the famed Blue Note Club in New York City, a great West Coast Tour and being voted onto Down Beat Magazine Reader's Poll Top Ten Jazz Vocalists again!
November 2000 was Silvano's first European tour as Leader, and while in Brussels she went into the recording studio with the eminent Pianist/Composer Mal Waldron for a duo session. She had studied many of his lesser-known works, written during his years as a staff writer for Prestige Records and she wrote lyrics to several of them. It was great to experience his compositions directly with the Source, (especially the magical "Soul Eyes") and to play with such a mature and supportive accompanist. RIDING A ZEPHYR (Soul Note/Black Saint Records) didn't come out until November 2002 on the esteemed Italian label.
2001 was a big year and brought a commission from the Muhlenberg College Dancers, in collaboration with choreographer Susan Creitz. This project "Travellin' Without A Clue" featured 15 dancers plus an ensemble made up of a 12-voice choir, percussionist and flute, with Judi conducting it all for 4 exciting shows!
There were also several appearances in NYC of Silvano's New Music Quartet "Cleome" featuring bassist Michael Formanek, drummer Gerry Hemingway and saxophonist George Garzone, notably at the famed Knitting Factory. This group, dedicated to the spirit of collective improvisation, has a CD in the works.
Judi was part of a wonderful project with guitarist James Emery who put together a quartet consisting of James on guitar, Judi on flute and voice, Drew Gress on bass and Joe Lovano playing reeds and drum set. They did some gigs up in Woodstock and then recorded mostly originals by James and Joe in a freely improvisational style. The CD :Fourth World" was released in 2001 on btl (between the lines).
Silvano taught at some prestigious Summer Workshops, including the Banff International Jazz Workshop again, Janice Borla's Vocal Jazz Camp in the Chicago area, and then at the Lake Placid Music Seminar in upstate New York with Jim McNeely, Bob Brookmeyer, Rufus Reid, Billy Hart and Joe Lovano.
When 9-11 happened in September of 2001, things kind of shut down in New York City. Everyone was so horrified by what had happened and it was a challenge for musicians to continue working and to get audiences to come out. Silvano decided to present a series of concerts to put out some positive energy. This was the beginning of Judi wearing the "producer's hat" and it evolved into "Judi Silvano's Vocal Series" at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. That first year, Silvano presented emerging vocalists and invited peers that she admired to join her and created some beautiful collaborations with 3 singers harmonizing and trading together. Some themes were Standards & Oldies (with Roz Corral & Marty Elkins), Brazilian music (with Maucha Adnet & Kate Baker), Free Improvisation (with Ellen Cristie) and "New Songs For Singers" featuring 14 different singers on the New York scene. It was packed and it was a hit!
Also in 2002, Silvano offered a series of Vocal Improvisation workshops in NYC, and found a large appetite among singers for this kind of training. Soon she created her second vocal ensemble "Voices Together". The core group of invited vocal musicians (Kyoko Kitamura and Marlena Primavera) worked with Silvano's visualization of music and stage movement as multi-media theatre. They did 4 gigs at the Knitting Factory to enthusiastic crowds and sometimes invited Guests to join the Core Group for vocal improvisations and Silvano originals. A few months later Judi invited dancer & choreographer Maria Mitchell to become a regular member of the ensemble. Things really came together with music and dance together again! A concert at a SoHo Gallery called "The Puffin Room", as part of their "Winter Performance Series" had a packed house. Workshops in schools and other concerts followed and the "Voices Together" group developed a following. For more information see Voices Together.
In May 2002, the publisher of AllAboutJazz, asked Silvano to write a column about her views about being a Vocal Jazz artist. It was an honor and challenge to put thoughts down on paper for nine (9) monthly articles about the complex workings of creative life. Periodically, she has contributed special articles to AAJ.
Summer of 2002, Silvano mastered her first CD of music for Yoga, Meditation and Massage. Since Silvano has been practicing yoga and receiving massages and acupuncture treatments for quite some time, she wanted to create a soundscape that she could relax and breathe with. She enlisted Joe Lovano and they did a series of duo sessions, live to DAT, with Judi playing flute, alto flute, alto recorder, voice, percussion & gongs, and Joe playing bass clarinet, bass recorder, wood flute, percussion & gongs. The resultant recording is a peaceful disc and while the music is totally improvised and melodic, it is not hard-hitting jazz. SOUND GARDEN- SPIRIT MUSIC was released in late 2003 on their own JSL Records label.
Silvano did a Fall 2002 tour to Los Angeles playing several venues with the tasty rhythm section of Theo Saunders, Tony Dumas and Ralph Penland. Then, a 3 week tour with Joe Lovano's "Viva Caruso Street Band" all through England with a special gig at the London Festival and stops in Madrid, Berlin and Budapest. Silvano sang half the tunes, and played flute on the other compositions featuring of the "opera house" string and woodwind sound with bandmates Gil Goldstein, Billy Drewes and Gary Valente.
Elder statesman and Grammy-winning Vocalist Mark Murphy was so excited about what he saw and heard at "Silvano's Vocal Series", that he asked Silvano to produce a concert of all his compositions and lyrics. So there were 2 nights of Mark Murphy's music on December 7 & 8, 2002 with 8 wonderful singers interpreting his material! The "Judi Silvano Vocal Series" keeps resurfacing so if you're in NYC, keep an eye out for further concerts in the series & come down!
RIDING A ZEPHYR, Silvano's duo recording with pianist and composer MAL WALDRON, was finally released in November 2002 on the Italian label Soul Note/ Black Saint Records and is available at the Recordings page. It got a wonderful reception by both critics and radio hosts around the country. But the tour to support the CD release was curtailed when Mal died unexpectedly on December 2, 2002, just 3 weeks after the CD was released. Dr. Herb Wong listed this CD among his Top Blue Chip Award Vocal CD's for 2002, published in the IAJE Journal and it received many wonderful reviews.
2003 was a very busy year with several notable "Tributes to Mal Waldron": a poignant duo concert with the wonderful pianist Frank Kimbrough at the Falcon Art Center in the Mid-Hudson Valley and then a gig at the famed Birdland Club in NYC, with James Williams, piano, Don Braden, sax, Ed Schuller, bass & Billy Drummond, drums. Since Silvano had applied for and was awarded two Meet The Composer grants to help produce this date, she had Mal's grant transferred to his daughter (Mala Waldron) and so both Judi & Mala presented their own original compositions and lyrics in conjunction with the great compositions and lyrics that Mal had left us all! It was a magical evening.
Silvano also did another series in February 2003 with the Muhlenberg College Dance Department, in collaboration with choreographer Susan Creitz. Creitz fell in love with Silvano's composition "Dust" which she'd just recorded with Mal, so they adapted it to her dance. This time there was not only a student vocal choir, but also the accomplished pianist Dave Leonhardt to accompany the 17 dancers, with Silvano singing and conducting it all!
This was a year of Poetry & Spoken Word for Silvano. She worked closely with poet Leanne Averbach on a series of Poetry & Jazz concerts (at the Bowery Poetry Club, the Knitting Factory and the Cornelia Street Café Poetry Series. Also, poet Golda Solomon invited her to be a special Guest on her "Po'Jazz (Poetry + Jazz)" monthly Poetry series. In addition, Silvano was invited to sing with bassist Andy McKee at the "Literature Live" events at the new Knitting Factory (curated by Nick Birns).
Judi worked closely for months with veteran arranger/pianist Michael Abene on developing charts to record some of her mother's favorite Standard songs in celebration of her 80th birthday. This project was a way of paying tribute to the woman who gave Silvano her appreciation for both music and art. Abene's exciting 3-horn arrangements, written expressly for Judi Silvano's unique talents, were recorded in May 2003 at Sound on Sound in New York City. In addition to the great New York musicians that Silvano hired for this date, she invited her brother Dr. Dan Silverman and her very musical sister Nita Goodgal to be part of the project!!! To see photos of the recording session just click here on the Gallery.
Some other highlights of the year: There was a trio gig with Dena DeRose and Scott Lee at Chez Suzette, where Dena sang harmonies on one of Judi's originals, and Judi played flute on one of Dena's originals. They had a wonderful rapport and are working towards doing another date together!
Judi also enjoyed playing with the creative pianist Russ Lossing, and did several concerts with Bob Meyer's "Sephardic Meets Jazz" Project, playing Ladino/Spanish melodies from Medieval times. The band included Brad Shepik on guitar, John Menegon on bass and this time with Loren Stillman on alto sax, in a decidedly new jazz style. Silvano also brought her new music quartet "Cleome" to the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village, featuring Adam Kolker on sax, Ben Allison on bass & Gerry Hemingway on drums and percussion. She invited vocalist Marlena Primavera to sit in and the sparks were flying! You can photos on Judi's Gallery Page.
In June, Silvano played a concert under the banner of the JVC Jazz Festival at St Peter's Church as a member of International Women in Jazz organization (IWJ). Silvano contributed several of her original compositions. (You can view of list of Judi Silvano's compositions and lyrics at the JSL Records website.)
That summer, Silvano became the First Vice President of the newly formed New York Chapter of the Jazz Vocal Coalition (JZVOC), an organization formed to support the vocal jazz community and encourage public appreciation of Vocal Jazz. Her involvement in this organization grew in preparation for many events to be held during the IAJE Convention in NYC in January 2004.
July and August saw Silvano on another 3-week European tour, once again, with Joe Lovano's "Street Band", playing major festivals in France, Italy, Scandinavia and ending the tour in Rome. Then they went to Sicily for an extra 4 days to visit friends and relatives and were invited to come back again, in August 2004, to perform a concert for the entire mountain town of Cesaro, with pianist Salvatore Bonafede.
Silvano's Vocal Series of concerts at Cornelia Street Café continued into the Autumn, most notably with an October Tribute for Thelonious Monk's Birthday. She invited vocalists Teri Roiger and Sarah James (both Monk fans) to join in the celebration, along with John DeMartino, piano, John Menegon, bass, and Bob Meyer, drums making up the rhythm section. They performed an all-Monk evening, and Silvano sang many tunes she'd never tackled before. This gig was documented in Japan's premier Jazz Magazine, Swing Journal, with a photo and a "Report from New York" by journalist and Coltrane enthusiast, Mr. Fuji.
The International Women In Jazz (IWJ) was invited to bring the first jazz group ever to perform in the "Donne in Musica" Festival in Frascati, Italy (just outside of Rome) in December 2003. Judi Silvano was an important part of this Ensemble chosen from among the membership, specifically for their abilities as Composers. The response was wonderful and there were some illustrious Italian musicians in the audience, notably Clarinet legend Tony Scott and bassist Giovanni Tomasso. Members of the group were Linda Presgrave on piano, Melissa Slocum on bass, Carol Sudhalter on tenor sax and flute, Dottie Anita Taylor on flute, Andrea Wolper on vocals, Judi Silvano on flute and vocals.
2004 came in with a cold wind, but there was heated activity in Silvano's life!!! Silvano's multi-media project VOICES TOGETHER continued it's growth in New York during 2003, with performances and educational workshops in the interactive arts of music, dance and theatre. Silvano applied to the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) for a grant to help fund workshops and performances with this unique ensemble and was awarded an "Arts Community Grant" through NYSCA for a series of performances and workshops for the 2004 year.
The group explores Silvano Originals and familiar songs improvisationally, using costumes, stage movement and percussion instruments. The core group of 3 Vocalists and 1 Dancer is made up of vocalists Kyoko Kitamura, Marlena Primavera with Judi Silvano, plus dancer & choreographer Maria Mitchell. Additional personnel gives the group flexibility and freshness, so sometimes Silvano invites more vocalists, dancers or instrumentalists to join the group. For more information see Voices Together.
The IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educators) convention was held in NYC in late January 2004 and Silvano was involved in producing several events as part of the JZVOC (Jazz Vocal Coalition). The organization presented 10 of their Members during concerts spanning 3 nights, so that a total of 30 Vocalists from around the country were presented at New York City jazz clubs, with all the networking opportunities that were generated. To find out more about this young and growing organization, go to www.jzvoc.org and please consider becoming a member, whether you are a Jazz Fan or a practitioner of the Vocal Arts.
Another powerful concert in Silvano's Vocal Series evolved from journalist Lara Pelegrinelli's idea to present an evening of Alternative Lyrics to Standard Songs. They worked together with Judi as producer and Lara as curator and put together an evening of humorous and bawdy lyrics that had the audience enthralled and delighted. They called it "Strangers in the Night - An Evening of Uncommon Lyrics to the Great American Songbook." The house was full that February evening, and no-one wanted to leave because they all wanted to hear the songs planned for the second set, which got bawdier as the evening went on! There were memorable performances, most notably by Carline Ray, Mary Foster Conklin, Dean Bowman, Claire Daley and Rich Siegel. And there were notables in the audience too: Helen Merrill, Anne Phillips & Ray Passman were spotted!
Later that Spring, Silvano shared an evening at the Brecht Forum in March with fellow vocalist Kendra Shank. Silvano presented her hard-hitting quartet "Cleome" this time featuring George Garzone on sax, Ed Schuller on bass & Newman- Taylor Baker on drums. They both invited the other to sit in and they all sang together, and the audience was excited by several vocalists onstage together.
May 2004 brought very exciting news!! Judi Silvano signed with a new label called ZOHO Music for the release of her new all-Standards CD called LET YOURSELF GO with little big-band charts arranged by veteran Michael Abene, who conducted from the piano. Visit www.Zohomusic.com and check out her planned October 2004 release.
March is Women's History Month, so Judi put together a special project and celebrated on March 20th. Billing the concert as "Women's Songs Played By Women!" the band included Bernice Brooks, drums, Sue Maskaleris, piano & vocal, Mary Ann McSweeney, bass, Jamie Baum, flute, and Judi Silvano, vocals. The only problem was that there was so much great music to play and we had only one set but they played music by Abbey Lincoln, Sheila Jordan, Carla Bley, Mary Lou Williams, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Ann Ronnel, Maria Grever, Meredith D'Ambrosio and Bessie Smith! Fantastic, interesting and varied new repertoire and there was a lot of power on that stage!!
Spring finally arrived after a very long winter, and Silvano led seven Grant Performances with her "Voices Together" group, funded by a grant from NYSCA (New York State Council for the Arts). The group of 3 vocalists and 1 dancer worked their magic and touched audiences young and old wherever they performed, and there are photos posted on the Gallery page. She also had a 5 day tour at the end of April to Portland, Oregon in collaboration with San Francisco vocalist Cathi Walkup and New Yorker Andrea Wolper, in an "East Meets West" project. Two of the highlights of the trip were getting to hang out with the fabulous vocalist Nancy King and doing a live broadcast with Mary Burlingame on KMHD radio.
Summer 2004 found Silvano in the recording studio again, this time creating the next in the "Sound Garden" series of music for Yoga, Meditation and Massage on JSL Records. This new project features her vocal ensemble "Voices Together" with Kyoko Kitamura and Marlena Primavera in Original compositions and improvisations. This work was a dream for Silvano's love of the choral sound and the resulting CD "SOUND GARDEN– Celestial Voices" will be released on JSL Records in Spring 2005.
October 5, 2004 was the official release date for Silvano’s first all-Standard release “Let Yourself Go” on the new Zoho Music label. October 26th was the first CD Release Party at the famed Birdland club in New York City, then November 16th at Sweet Rhythm in Greenwich Village and March 21st at The Jazz Standard, an elegant club below the famous Blue Smoke Restaurant. Thanks to all the folks who came out to help us celebrate this release! There has been such enthusiasm about this band we had to have three Release Parties!!! Why not???!!!